Allston Asks for Benefits

Harvard should provide aid to Allston community, task force says

CORRECTION APPENDED

A committee of Allston residents yesterday called on Harvard to provide benefits to the community, including new public parks and full scholarships to the College for neighborhood children, as the University embarks on the most ambitious campus expansion in its history.

With construction on the Allston science complex slated to begin this fall, the benefits proposed by the Harvard-Allston Task Force—a group of 17 local residents appointed by the Boston mayor—will be incorporated into a legally binding document that outlines the benefits the University must provide to the neighborhood. The “cooperation agreement,” which does not have to be completed before Harvard begins construction in Allston, will be signed by the University and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

At a meeting in Allston last night, some residents questioned whether Harvard would live up to the promises it will eventually make. One resident cited discrepancies in the building heights proposed by the North Allston Neighborhood Strategic Plan and those included in Harvard’s plans for its science complex—which will include the home of the Harvard Stem Cell Initiative—as an instance in which the University has not lived up to its word.

However, BRA Senior Project Manager Gerald Autler said that the strategic plan was not legally binding, while a “cooperation agreement” would be.

“The strategic framework was a vision. It’s not a binding plan,” Autler said. “Whatever comes out of this process will go into a contract and will be a legal document, which is a very different thing.”

Harvard officials who were in attendance at the meeting did not respond to comments concerning the community benefits.

The benefits called for by the task force also included access to the University’s shuttles and athletic facilities, subsidized daycare at the science complex, and, in the long term, the creation of a “private, charter, or magnet school sponsored by Harvard.”

“Benefits are what we think we need from Harvard to survive as it expands into our neighborhood,” Ray Mellone, the chairman of the task force, said at the meeting.

Harvard officials said that they plan to issue a draft project impact report for the University’s science complex plans to the BRA by the end of this month. After that, a 75-day public comment period will begin, after which the BRA will either approve or deny Harvard’s plans.

Task force member Brent Whelan emphasized the importance of the community making its desires known to the University and the BRA.

“The task force and the community will ultimately be trying to persuade the BRA what it is that we want when they sign that document,” he said. “The more that the community makes itself heard, the more power that it will give us to negotiate.”

—Staff writer Laura A. Moore can be reached at lamoore@fas.harvard.edu.

CORRECTION: The April 26 news article "Allston Asks for Benefits" incorrectly stated that a cooperation agreement between Harvard and Boston Redevelopment Authority would not have to be completed before the University could begin construction. In fact, while the agreement must be completed before construction commences, it does not have to be approved by the Boston Redevelopment Authority beforehand.